In recent years, a lot of work has been done (and invested) in educating the population about recycling, especially household waste. But, a study carried out and recently published by DS Smith, a company specialized in sustainable packaging, reflects that the population perhaps needs more information. Since it calculates that around 4 out of 10 spanish based people do not recycle “out of fear of being wrong”.

This study shows that each citizen throws away each year more than 410 cardboard boxes or packaging paper. 300 plastic bottles, 270 cans of soft drinks, 220 bags of potato chips and more than 160 disposable coffee cups. In addition, at a collective level, more than 415 million spray cans of cleaning products and up to 465 million shampoo bottles are discarded. How can these figures be lowered? Why exactly are they reached?

 

When in doubt, to the general bin

Taking into account that 97% of the respondents acknowledged “having doubts” when it comes to knowing whether an object can be reused. Leaving 3% those who answered “being clear” what packaging can be recycled or not.  It does not seem misleading to think that one of the reasons – or the main reason – for the figures cited above is the lack of information. As a consequence, almost half of the participants, 47.6%, said they preferred to play it safe and, therefore, they ended up dumping packaging into the general garbage container.

In addition, 78% of the participants indicated that they had thrown into the general garbage container waste “that they thought could be recycled”. The fact that the product label “did not make it clear” how to do it, was the justification of 17% of them. Can the DS Smith study underline the need to rethink labelling?

In fact, the answer could be drawn from the same results, since 53% of those surveyed stated that the information on the recyclability of products “is not clear” on their labels and more than a third (35.3%) responded that there is “directly no label” of this type. But it is true that 21% claimed to have thrown general waste in recycling containers because “they were not paying attention” or that for 13%, simply, “it is easier”.

 

Willingness to recycle better and circular economy to improve

Although the percentages collected may leave a defeatist feeling, the study includes that 34.8% of citizens have the “will to recycle”. Despite acknowledging that they do not know if they are doing it well, because “they hope for the best”. Thus, 65% of these people admit to having put objects in the wrong container and even “things that cannot be recycled” to a recycling container. Almost 40% (39.8%) do so because “They don’t know where it should go” while 19.3% expect that “Recyclers put it in the correct container.”

However, DS Smith has calculated that errors in recycling due to the different causes included in the study represent more than 7 million tons of recyclable materials disposed of in landfills annually. A figure that translates to a cost of 125 million euros per year.

As a result of the study, the company has developed “Principles of circular design” in order to “facilitate recycling, avoid the generation of waste, extend the useful life of products and materials and contribute to the protection of the environment”. The optimized use of packaging materials, the promotion of efficiency in the design and recycling of packaging, among others, are some of these principles to achieve improvement and optimization of recycling from the first step of the recycling cycle: the own use of packaging.

PICVISA accumulates years of experience developing innovative solutions for the selection and classification of recyclable materials. The company continuously optimizes its solutions and services to ensure the most efficient classification possible. Being able to continue optimizing the initial steps in the recycling cycle would undoubtedly add to the company’s mission.